David J Knight’s The Book of Seven Pages (Fenylalanine Publishing)
Fenylalanine Publishing is a digital micro-press that explores the aesthetics of the physical book in the context of digital media. It produces no physical objects itself, but digitally publishes chapbook-length texts that preserve the sensuality of books, encouraging readers to take the files and create the books in their own ways, participating in the production of the books as physical and aesthetic objects.
This exploration of the border between the digital and physical book also informs Fenylalanine’s emphasis on visual and text-based poetics that permeate boundaries and that pose questions about the nature of text and reading. The press describes itself as producing “latent peripheral ephemeral paraphernalia,” and it invites textual expressions that float askew to established categories.
FP1: The Book of Seven Pages, for example, written by the publisher David J. Knight, explores asemic writing and the idea of the book, pushing calligraphic writing past the point of comprehensibility. FP5: Twigs by Jessica Avolio is a photographic poem that portrays the intersection between the natural and the produced. FP13: Aunt Ida by Bieke Stengos combines poetry and details from a single photograph to comment on context and memory. FP15: euNoia by John Nyman makes typographic interventions to selections from Christian Bök’s EUNOIA.
These examples, and all of Fenylalanine’s publications, consistently ask readers to look more closely at the found object, at the peripheral image, at the intersection of text and visuality, at what is remixed, rediscovered, and reimagined, and they do so with a spirit of playfulness, eccentricity, and exploration.
Freed from the need to cover production costs or sell copies, Fenylalanine can afford to publish whimsically, according to its taste rather than the taste of a given audience or demographic. It takes up whatever happens to coincide with its aesthetic, happy to let them be what they are and to have them perhaps become something more in proximity to each other.
It provides an opportunity for people to reconsider what the uses of social media can and should be.
By publishing this aesthetic vision primarily through Facebook and other social media, Fenylalanine also poses the question of how these media might be used to provoke artistic reflection rather than merely echo viral content and provide a platform for advertising. It provides an opportunity for people to reconsider what the uses of social media can and should be.
All this produces a sensibility around Fenylalanine and its publications that might best be described as serious play. Fenylalanine simultaneously takes itself too seriously and fails really to be serious about anything. More importantly, it asks this of its readers, too. It asks them to look for art in their newsfeed, to see it in the everyday bits of their lives, to make it from whatever they find at hand, and to do so with a spirit of mischief and jest.
Jeremy Luke Hill is the publisher at Vocamus Press, a micro press in Guelph, Ontario. Vocamus Press occasionally prints some of Fenylalanine’s pieces, and Fenylalanine has published a chapbook of Luke’s poetry.
MicroLit Reviews is an ongoing series on the Town Crier. We’re looking for 400-600 word reviews of micro press books, chapbooks, broadsides, zines, visual poetry, digital literature projects, and everything else weird and wonderful being made in literary communities across North America. Please send all submissions or pitches to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject heading: MicroLit Reviews Submission. Submissions are ongoing. Feel free to inquire about review copies.